The very concept of optimizing warehousing and logistics has completely changed shape and boundaries since the emergence of the omni-channel movement. Rather than a single, clear road to success, keeping fulfillment capabilities on par with business growth has become more like several concepts simultaneously navigating a maze that changes from moment to moment. It can be dizzying for a strong, slow-moving portion of a company like traditional warehousing to keep up with the fast pace of change. But for a business to remain wholly competitive, it must develop a warehousing strategy that mimics or surpasses the ambitions of sales and marketing efforts — otherwise the latter will quickly outpace the former. But how can an evolving company effectively transfer and apply techniques designed for another department to the heart of their fulfillment center?
You've invested in great people, great shelving and a great location, so why aren't your warehousing layout / KPI (key performance indicators) strategies working? Omni-channel has disrupted the comfort and familiarity of the “one true way” style of warehouse management. Innovators like Amazon are shaking the very foundations of tried-and-true workflows to uncover hidden caches of efficiency and cost savings. Automation and connectivity is strapping the equivalent of seven-league boots to your staff, allowing them to work harder and smarter without wearing themselves down. While these advancements require some decision-making and resource allocation to function, the best possible environment is one that allows them to properly flourish: an intelligently-designed warehouse.
Here are three “outside the box” strategies that will guide your “inside the box” product picking and packing to a successful outcome.
Just as a farmer knows the lay of the land and a surgeon knows the body's inner workings, a warehousing manager needs to know the state of his or her warehouse at all times. This includes not only operational warehouse management data, but warehousing KPIs that speak to the day's work — not merely the materials involved in it. These trends are important, not only for internal improvements, but for reporting and collaborating with supply chain partners as well. If pushing to achieve X goal requires Y products and Z service, for example, the latter two must be consulted in order for the first to manifest. What metrics does your warehouse need to read to succeed?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you try to zero in on these elements.
Have you ever looked at the operational data coming out of your warehouse and felt you could do better? Are you puzzled by the low efficiency scores, bad fill rates or sluggish speeds that keep showing up within your workflow? Is the C-Suite leaning on you to improve your turnaround time or output? Getting the results you need out of your warehousing and distribution requires knowledge and proactive examination at every step, but the effort only demands five simple steps in all.
It's time for your fulfillment center to set up a framework that gathers data and runs like a well-oiled engine of commerce, but where do you start?
The measure of success for a warehouse is typically determined by results: the number of goods successfully received and sent out, minimal stock damages, no injury incidents. If target numbers for categories like these are achieved, warehousing strategies might not venture beyond maintaining the status quo — the adage of "don't fix what isn't broken" at work. What fulfillment center managers often fail to realize, however, is that assessing and improving warehousing layout can move a business from treading water to real change, the lasting kind that bolsters the all-important bottom line.
Is your warehouse working as hard for you as it should be?
Achieving excellence in the supply chain is a goal that's become something of a moving target in the wake of the omnichannel movement, forcing operational managers to learn and use new skills on the fly. Even with confidence and years of experience to their name, managers often long for the simpler days before the digital revolution added a hundred extra moving parts to logistics and warehouse planning. Thankfully, new trends can be a transformative experience that eliminates many frustrations — provided the right solutions for a given workflow are used.
Automation and forecasting are the two best strategies for a logistics-weary professional trying to optimize their warehouse, and, thankfully, there are a number of innovations available that cater to both.
We live in an always-on, digital world where people have come to expect instant satisfaction. As a result, operations directors face increasing pressure to streamline processes to keep their warehouses functioning at the highest level of efficiency. But it’s not always about working faster or harder. After all, if an airline pilot gets on the intercom and says, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time,” you wouldn’t be impressed with his efficiency. So, how can you develop the warehousing processes that will lead to true efficiency?
The management of warehousing expenses has always been tricky for COOs and supply chain managers to deal with. Space doesn't come cheap, and it can't easily be expanded in small increments. When a company builds new warehouse space, it typically has to build more than it presently needs. In the near-term, much of that expensive new capacity will probably sit empty. On the other hand, if space limitations have begun to cap off your company's potential revenue, or if they are creating safety issues for your associates, something must be done.
Think about your most popular product. How many pairs of hands are involved in manifesting it on your fulfillment center shelves? 100? 1000? More? When a supply chain is running smoothly, it's surprisingly easy to hand the credit off to flashy tech and algorithms, but people are what's truly at the core. While upgrading technology may be as simple as a download, optimizing the human component of your supply chain is quite a bit trickier, but certainly not impossible—with the right approach. Consider three important reasons to invest in the people that move your supply chain.
There are a number of targets to aim for when it comes to succeeding in fulfillment service —proper protection of goods, accurate delivery location, time windows and, increasingly, the cost that's ultimately passed on to the consumer. The omni-channel sales movement has done more than increase spending and reach, it's taught customers to expect variety and convenience in every aspect of their shopping experience. The fulfillment service center has shifted from a behind-the-scenes player into a vital part of that expectation, and the way shipping choices are handled and presented can now make or break a bottom line. Do you know if your shipping choices are the ones your customers are looking for?
Great minds have scoured trade journals, articles and business books looking for the golden ratio of accuracy and efficiency within the fulfillment center, only to come up empty handed. The reason? No two warehouses are alike, which means that no one solution can possibly stretch to cover all the bases. Like many of the best ideas in business optimization, it takes a dedicated supply chain professional, a simple template and a lot of adjusting to find the right fit for your business. If you're willing to be the hand on that helm, take a look at three not-so-secret secrets to kicking your fulfillment processes into high gear.
Staying competitive is one of the biggest challenges facing every company, even those that provide vital services in the logistics sphere. Simply moving goods from one point to another is no longer enough to ensure prosperity in an omni-channel era. Shipping solutions must be as diverse and customer-pleasing as the products themselves. To that end, the 3PL industry has begun to mirror its non-service clients, absorbing and buying out peers in a bid to remain attractive to customers, both current and potential. What does this mean for you, as a client on that roster?
There was a time when being accused of "being transparent" was a cause for concern, not business pride, and reactive supply chain moves often sufficed when there were pockets of lead time throughout the whole order process—lag between order placement and acknowledgement and pauses between picking and shipping. Now, however, orders are placed and sourced at lightning speed, and your supply chain strategy has had to adjust accordingly. If you're still operating as if these lead time pockets are plentiful, it's time to get up to speed, literally, by rethinking the way you respond to concerns in the fulfillment process.
Your fulfillment partners are an integral part of doing business, but to consider them a real part of your value chain initiative or support, you need to know what else they can do for your company. In short, their benefits should, whenever possible, become benefits to you as well—whether that be opening proverbial doors, banding together with your buyers for better pricing, or proactively researching and suggesting ways to tighten up your current fulfillment processes. Even in a situation where vendor A offers a better price per unit or service event than vendor B, that "smart bet" on A quickly becomes worthy of scrutiny if B can provide more opportunities to save money or boost efficiency.
Bounce rate, abandoned carts, a lack of repeat customers—there's no shortage to the worries an e-commerce site has to deal with. It's easy to blame a broad, uncontrollable force like a sluggish economy, but sometimes it’s actually these sites themselves that are their own worst enemy. Ecommerce fulfillment can only accomplish so much in the drive to secure customer satisfaction—a streamlined warehouse can't compensate for a fundamentally broken shopping experience. Think you've got things handled? Take a glance at the three most common roadblocks to sales online.
Even if your fulfillment center doesn't quite have Santa's globe-hopping workload to contend with, they'll still have to work a little holiday magic to keep the upcoming influx of holiday orders running smoothly. As customers travel and gift-giving timelines become non-negotiable, your supply chain needs to be backed by a strategy that holds up to scrutiny and stress to remain viable. As with most supply chain planning, it's in your best interests to be proactive, not reactive, so here are a few last to-do list items to cross off before ecommerce marches into the busiest weeks of the year.
While the fulfillment industry continues to maintain a warranted focus on the truck driver shortage, they may be missing a similar crisis under their own roof: a growing fulfillment center talent shortage. Much like the carrier shortages, warehouses are losing workers to retirement and position-shifting, and the talent pool is proving sluggish to refill. It's critical that managers are being proactive to make sure you aren't left with unexpected gaps in your workforce during a crucial sales period.
Topics : Supply Chain Workforce Management
If fulfillment managers seem a little nervous lately, they have good reason to be: There's a lack of truck drivers bearing down on them like, well, a runaway, unmanned semi. After putting so much time and effort into tying trucks into the IoT, building efficiency into shipping routes and otherwise embracing technology, it's a sad irony that the sticking point of shipping solutions now seems to be the human component. As drivers age out, retire or leave the industry for other jobs, 3PL companies are casting increasingly nervous glances into the pool of teenage drivers or calculating the red tape ahead of them to use flying robots for the last mile.
It's a hard comfort to step away from the belief that supply chains flow one way, and do so without requiring input beyond basic ordering or invoicing. But supply chains cannot afford to be closed loops in the face of modern logistics. The supply chain is part of an incredibly intricate network, carefully balanced with success in mind. The emergence of the value chain concept, which highlights smart supply chain strategy as a source for operational cost savings, is directly tied to (relatively new) versatility and transparency efforts. Implementation, much like the goods within that versatile, new supply chain, draws operational inspiration and planning opportunities from an unusual source: customers.
The holidays are fast approaching, and visions of high-volume shipments are dancing in every fulfillment center manager's head. However, even as everything even tangentially related to ecommerce is battening the hatches, the "other" holiday season is sneaking up quietly—the flood of returns in January. Not all gifts will hit the mark, which means that store credit usually shoots to the top of the wish list as soon as Santa returns to the North Pole. Are you and your team ready for that flip?
Topics : Vendor Management